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Left can become right choice for Sikar

By Priti Patnaik in Sikar
May 04, 2004 22:15 IST
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A Congressman in West Bengal is more leftist than the leftists in Rajasthan, goes the common refrain in the desert Lok Sabha constituency of Sikar in Rajasthan.

Amra Ram, the CPI-M contestant and the third most important candidate for the Sikar Lok Sabha constituency, has been the sole representative of the Left in the state legislature over the past 20 years.

Traditionally, the Shekhawati belt comprising Sikar, Churu and Jhunjunu, has been Left-leaning and Bikaner's Sheopat Singh represented the CPI-M in the Lok Sabha for at least one term.

Amra Ram had mobilised over 40,000 workers during the chief ministership of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat to protest against lack of power electricity in villages.

Criticising the Congress for remaining silent on the Bharatiya Janata Party's attempt to perpetuate communal violence, Ram promises to bring about communal harmony in the region.

He is the only candidate who talks of addressing the problem of ground water depletion in the region. Being a member of the Jat community, which accounts for over 300,000 votes in the constituency, is a big factor.

And if Amra Ram manages to get a substantial chunk of that vote bank, it will spell the difference between victory and defeat for the Congress and the BJP, the two main parties in the contest. There are over 1.4 million voters in the constituency.

The Jat swing in favour of the BJP in the last assembly election was one of the major reasons for the Congress debacle, say political analysts.

However, the BJP's decision to nominate Subhash Mahariya by ignoring the claims of several senior leaders for the Sikar Lok Sabha seat has upset Jats in the area.

In 2003, while the Congress won only two assembly segments in the constituency, the BJP won the rest six of them.

In the 1999 Lok Sabha election, the Congress had won nine seats and the BJP 14 of the 25 seats in the state.

The other components of the voters include Muslims, who are likely to vote for the Congress, Brahmins, Banias, Gujjars and Yadavs.

According to Jai Prakash Sharma, a Congress worker, the party will win over 90 per cent of the minority and SC/ST votes. There is an undeniable undercurrent in favour of the Congress, he says.

However, the BJP claims that the Congress has been categorically denying seats to Muslims. Therefore, their equations with the minority will inevitably be affected.

The Congress says Mahariya is worth Rs1000 crore. That Mahariya has over 15 petrol pumps in his name is a fact. Locals feel that the people are bored of the BJP, as  simple as  that.

The RSS is another factor working against Mahariya, who has come to acquire his own coterie of people, parallel to the RSS cadre in the state.

The BJP does not think of Narain Singh as formidable competition. In the last Vidhan Sabha elections, the 75-year-old Singh said he was opting out for retirement.

So it came as a surprise that he was contesting for parliamentary elections this time. A major election issue in Sikar is an incomplete railway overbridge. In addition is Mahariya's unfulfilled promise of a canal system for the constituency.

Roads and education are other issues, which are touched upon by both the rivals. Mahariya claims to have established the first dairy plant in the region. Animal husbandry has been a primary sector in this region.

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Priti Patnaik in Sikar